Parisians pawn furs, antiques to make ends meet

Parisians turn to pawn shop
Credit Municipal paris 2008


    Parisians turn to pawn shop


Parisians turn to pawn shop 03:23

Story highlights

  • Some Parisians using their belongings as security against loans
  • Credit Municipal has operated as pawn brokers since the 17th century
  • Around 40% more people pawning objects at Credit Municipal in last five years

While the French electorate has put its faith in a new president to turn around the country's economic fortunes, some cash-strapped Parisians are turning to time-honored methods to make ends meet.

Nicole Rocher is among the crowds of Parisians that line up daily up to pawn their wares at the famous Credit Municipal, which has operated in the city since the 17th century. She is hoping to offload some of her possessions, including furs and a clock, for cash to boost her dwindling retirement fund.

"We are going through a difficult time," says Rocher. "My husband and I are retired so there are periods which are sometimes hard and we need to pay the rent."

Parisians have been going to Credit Municipal for centuries to take out low-cost loans against their belongings to make ends meet. They bring anything with a minimum value of €30 as security against a 12-month loan equal to half the object's value.

Tough economic times have seen around 40% more people turning up here in the last five years -- 700 people a day, compared to 550 a year ago.

"We are quite a good barometer of the economy and we are slightly ahead of it, because our 30% increase in trade between 2007 and 2008 was before the crisis," says Credit Municipal director Bernard Candiard. "So the crisis began with us four months before it happened to the markets."

Credit Municipal was set up as an alternative to moneylenders demanding interest rates of between 100% and 300%. Today, clients pay between 4% and 9% interest and can extend the loan as long as they wish. The average loan is €1,000.

Nine out of 10 people who come here do recuperate the objects they have pawned. But in the economic downturn it is taking them twice as long to do that -- around two years. If they can't pay back the loans the objects they have brought in are sold at auction.

If anything goes for a profit, the original owner pockets the takings after commission and administrative costs.

Rocher's fur was rejected, but she cashed in on the clock. She says it's not what she hoped for, but it is something -- and something that the oldest financial institution in town can do to help down-on-their-luck Parisians through these tough economic times.

      Marketplace Europe

    • spc marketplace europe latvia valdis dombrovskis_00021207.jpg

      Latvia's economic prospects

      CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
    • spc marketplace europe malta immigration africa_00002118.jpg

      Asylum seekers in Malta

      Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
    • spc marketplace europe malta immigration vox pops_00001419.jpg

      Maltese concerned over migrants

      CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
    • spc marketplace europe malta george vella_00032005.jpg

      Malta's migrant struggle

      Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
    • spc marketplace europe 2013 what went wrong_00020426.jpg

      What went wrong in 2013?

      Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
    • spc marketplace europe 2013 defining moments bob parker intv_00010826.jpg

      2013: The year of tapering

      CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
    • spc marketplace europe estonia energy_00000923.jpg

      Estonia's dirty energy drive

      The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
    • spc marketplace europe nani beccalli falco_00041005.jpg

      GE Europe exec's jobs warning

      Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
    • spc marketplace europe greece petros christodoulou_00002025.jpg

      Is Greece on the mend?

      Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
    • spc marketplace europe euro jim cloos_00012617.jpg

      Don't blame euro, says pioneer

      One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
    • spc marketplace europe maastricht eu_00002401.jpg

      The birthplace of the euro

      Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
    • spc marketplace europe spain working hours_00010525.jpg

      Spain may turn clocks back

      As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.